Institute of Applied Science

IAS




PhD: Hilda Sakiti Waqa

 

Mrs. Hilda Waqa

Degree:  Doctor of Philosophy

Researcher: Hilda Sakiti Waqa

Thesis titleTaxonomy, Phylogenetics and Biogeography of the Fijian long-horned beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)

Supervisors: Dr. Richard Winkworth (USP), Dr Steve Trewick (Massey University, NZ), and Dr. Dteve Lingafelter (Smithsonian Institute, USA).

Thesis Abstract:

 

The long-horned beetle family Cerambycidae is one of the largest. But despite its popularity amongst entomologists relatively little is known about the Fijian taxa. A survey by Dillon & Dillon (1952) recorded 120 species in Fiji of which approximately 98% are unknown elsewhere. In addition to the unique character of the Fijian cerambycid fauna overall it also contains the world’s second largest beetle. Xixuthrus heros can grow to ~15cm in length, however little else is known about this rare and possibly endangered endemic.

Based on morphology Dillon & Dillon (1952) produced a taxonomic key to the Fijian Cerambycidae. However, evolutionary relationships among the species have not yet been investigated. This is one focus of my PhD. project. A molecular phylogeny for the group in Fiji would contribute to a better understanding of the origins and evolutionary patterns within Fiji, as well as how the Fijian species relate to others in the Pacific and the family as a whole. A second goal of the project is to explore the host-specificity of Fijian cerambycids. A preliminary study in Papua New Guinea has shown a high degree of host-specificity in the larval stages of the long-horned beetle life cycle. Understanding host-specificity in the Fijian taxa would provide a useful comparison but in combination with the phylogeny may help us to better understand the processes underlying diversification of Fijian long-horned beetles.

Results of this study will provide vital information on the taxonomy, phylogeny, and host-specificity of Fijian Cerambycidae. This information will also have practical value; based on an understanding of host-specificity it may be possible to use plant species richness as a bioindicator of cerambycid diversity in an area. This would further contribute to the conservation of this unique but understudied group.

 

 

 

 



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